Before / After School Care Renaissance Kids Early Childhood Education Centres

Our Founders

Linda Shirley

The vision of creating a hub of educational and arts related services for families began in 1990 when Linda opened “The Arts Connection” in Richmond.  The idea grew from her home-based music studio where she and her colleagues taught almost 100 students a week for sixteen years.  Over the years from 1990 to 2012, the centre continuously outgrew its facilities, finally resulting in it being spread out in a variety of spaces over a 2 mile radius.

However, Linda’s dream of having a highly respected centre for arts and education all under one roof became fulfilled in January 2013 when The Arts Connection opened its beautiful new 17,000 square foot facility on No. 2 Road in Richmond and brought all of its services together.  Here she was able to blend the two components of her unique business, “Renaissance Kids Early Learning Centre” and “The Arts Connection” into a partnership of education and fine arts programs for young and old alike.

Linda has an unusual blend of skills that include being a passionate teacher of piano, having a well-grounded background in dance, and administration and management skills which were developed in her younger years through her work as an Administrative Assistant with the Vancouver School Board.  While raising her young family, Linda began to cultivate her entrepreneurial skills…something she had learned from her father, owner of Vancouver’s first Greek restaurant.

As a piano teacher, Linda takes a personal interest in the overall development of her students, who continually achieve high standings in examinations and competitive festivals.  In 2010, Linda was asked to take over the publication and ownership of one of Canada’s well-established piano method programs for young children called “Kelly Kirby”.  Originating at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, this program for children ages 4- 8 yrs has been taught in Canada and around the world for almost 70 years.  The Arts Connection has produced hundreds of confident young musicians over the years who have had this program as their foundation of study.

Based on her extensive history in arts education and early learning, Linda has enjoyed a long-standing appointment by Richmond City Council as Chair of the Childcare Development Advisory Committee and is recognized as a leader in the community.

Over the years she has also received numerous awards and accolades including being the only three time recipient of the Ethel Tibbits “Woman of Distinction Award”.  Other awards include The City of Richmond’s “Award of Excellence” as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.   She has also been nominated for numerous awards including the Volunteer Richmond Awards, the Richmond Arts Award, and the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards.

Her extensive involvement in the community has also included serving as a volunteer in numerous capacities over the years:  VP of the Community Arts Council of Richmond (CACR); Chair of Centre Stage Youth Performance Society; appointment to the City of Richmond’s Parks, Recreational and Cultural Services Task Force and the Richmond Arts Strategy Task Force; Executive Committee member of the “Nite of Hope”.

More recently Linda continues as a board member of the CACR; as Chair of the Childcare Development Advisory Committee (City of Richmond) and as a member of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Advisory Committee on mental health and addictions.

Michael Shirley

Linda’s husband, Michael, has always been a strong supporter of her vision and dreams and for many years shared his skills in the area of visual arts with students of all ages at The Arts Connection.  Previous to joining Linda in the business, Michael had thirty years of hands-on experience in visual merchandising, display and administration from national retail chain stores.  He also holds numerous awards from national corporations for his display work.

Michael has a passion for painting and has studied with Joyce Kamikura, Brent Heighton and Toni Onley.  He currently serves on the board of The Community Arts Council of Richmond (CACR) and for several years managed their Artisan’s Galleria in Richmond.

Many of Michael’s paintings grace the lobbies and studio spaces in The Arts Connection’s beautiful new facility, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for creative thinking and learning!